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Jewish World Review April 1, 2003 / 28 Adar II, 5763

Roger Simon

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A different sort of fog | They don't call it the fog of war for nothing.

That fog usually exists because we get so little information from the battlefield during a war.

This time, however, the fog exists because we are getting so much conflicting information.

The U.S. invasion plan for Iraq is either on schedule or bogged down.

Our military planners either correctly estimated Iraqi military resistance or seriously underestimated it.

We either overestimated the desire of ordinary Iraqis to free themselves from Saddam Hussein, or we were properly realistic.

We never really believed that the air attacks on Baghdad would topple Saddam's regime, or that is exactly what we believed.

The refusal of Turkey to allow U.S. ground troops to base on and attack Iraq from Turkish soil was either a serious blow to our military plans or inconsequential.

You don't have to pose questions, however, to enmesh yourself in the fog of this war. Sometimes the fog is to be found in the answers:

"The enemy we're fighting against is different from the one we'd wargamed against," Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of the ground war in Iraq, told The New York Times and The Washington Post last week. "We knew they were here, but we did not know how they would fight."

But Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks shot back at a briefing at U.S. Central Command in Qatar: "No one can ever predict how a battle will unfold. We remain confident that we have a good grip on what's going on here, and we're proceeding."

(Wallace seriously outranks Brooks, by the way. A lieutenant general has three stars, and a brigadier general has but one.)

Brooks may truly believe that "no one can ever predict how a battle will unfold," but that belief is hardly universal. Several top U.S. officials made some very sunny predictions before this war began. Salon, a web magazine, has assembled a few of them.

The chief one comes from Vice President Dick Cheney, who said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on March 16: "The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but that they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that. My guess is even significant elements of the Republican Guard are likely as well to want to avoid conflict with the U.S. forces and are likely to step aside."

That still could happen and I hope it does, but it seems our planners underestimated the power of nationalism even under brutal dictators.

And then there was Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, who said in a PBS interview on July 11, 2002: "Saddam is much weaker than we think he is. He's weaker militarily. We know he's got about a third of what he had in 1991. But it's a house of cards. He rules by fear because he knows there is no underlying support. Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder."

Saddam's military has had more than just a first whiff of gunpowder and, as I write this, has not collapsed. Richard Perle, on the other hand, resigned his post this week.

Make no mistake, we will win this war. But the cost, in both dollars and lives, may be far higher than we estimated in those crystal clear days before the war began and the fog descended.

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